The benefits of performance appraisals are tough to argue with. Conducting performance appraisals helps to decrease uncertainty about job requirements and manager expectations, opens the door for training and development opportunities, and offers a chance to reinforce positive behavior. Yet even with all those benefits, annual performance reviews are still despised by many. Let’s see how they can help your organization.

Let’s get on the same page. Sometimes I get managers and employees coming to me, saying they just can’t understand why their employee/manager doesn’t communicate with them. My first question is always, “Have you talked with them?” And (surprisingly or not) the response is “no” 99% of the time! Now I’m not saying a performance review is going to fix that poor communication. However, if you can work with managers and employees to use the opportunity presented by a formal appraisal meeting, then it can help to break through those barriers that exist. Employees really want to know what criteria they are being rated on. And managers really want employees to do well in their work. I have yet to meet a manager who hopes his/her people will fail miserably.

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How do I get from here to there? One of the best ways to engage your employees to offer professional development opportunities. Not everyone wants to work to make themselves better at their job, but many people do. During the review process, find out where employees want to be in two years and work with them to get there. Maybe they want to take some classes in project management to contribute more on a team level. Maybe they are interested in developing some managerial skills and can supervise an intern. Maybe they want to be in a radically different position and you have some expertise to lend in the transition. Whatever the case, when the employee knows that you have their own long-term goals in mind, it gives them a deeper sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in their work.

Good job. Can you do it again? An often overlooked aspect of performance reviews is spending time on what went right. Sure, managers might say, “Way to go on Project X.” However, they do not always say exactly what they liked and what they would like to see again. If the person handled a touchy customer with finesse, tell them you appreciate their tact and cool head. When they know the specific behaviors that get noticed and/or rewarded, they can repeat them. Just hearing a generic “good job” is nice in the short run, but you need to provide more detail to help it become a repeated activity.

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The icky one. Nobody likes having to document poor performance, but it has to be done. In the next post in the series I’ll be looking at comments for performance reviews to help managers check the blocks while staying inside the legal boundaries. Documenting poor performance (whether in an annual review process or outside of it) is key for protecting the organization if the situation ends up resulting in a disciplinary action or termination. Managers prefer not to put things like this in writing, but that needs to be there as protection in case the employee (or former employee, if they are terminated) decides to pursue legal action.

Next time you are conducting performance appraisals, don’t lose sight of the benefits they provide throughout your organization. They can help foster communication, engage employees, and develop strong performers while still protecting from costly litigation.

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Ben Eubanks

Ben Eubanks

SPHR. Analyst at Brandon Hall Group. HR Blogger. Passions: writing, reading, running, being a dad.

This article is by Ben Eubanks from upstarthr.com.

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